Florida Department of Education Website Highlights Parental Rights, COVID Guidance

Recent website updates by the Florida Department of Education (FDOE), under the recently appointed Commissioner of Education – Senator Manny Diaz, puts a focus on parental rights and COVID guidance.

Diaz’s appointment was announced by the State Board of Education on April 29, 2022.

The website update provides a link at the top of the FDOE home page called “Featured Topics.” The top featured topics listed under the link are “Parental Rights” and COVID-19.

Under the “Parental Rights” tab is a message that states, “Florida is taking bold steps to protect parental rights and ensure the lawfulness of instructional materials. If you believe you have found unlawful materials in your school or you are just unsure how to voice your concerns, please see the helpful information below.”

The “Parental Rights” page lists contact information to share concerns directly with FDOE or with a school’s principal. A link on the page lists contacts for all public school principals in the 67 school districts.

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Florida Gay Rights Group Seeks to Avoid Supreme Court Review of ‘Conversion Therapy’ Ordinance

After losing court battles over the legality of local ordinances that ban “conversion therapy”, a gay-rights group – the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council – is asking Palm Beach County and Boca Raton to repeal their bans on so-called “conversion therapy” for youths struggling with their sexuality.

The group is seeking the repeal not because they have had a change in policy preference, but rather the group do not want the Palm County ordinances to be the vehicle by which the U.S. Supreme can rule on the issue.

The issue comes as the Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo recently recommended that social, medical and surgical transitioning treatment for gender dysphoria not be provided to children and adolescents.

Rand Hoch, the founder the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council, said in a statement last week that he was asking for the county and the city to drop their litigation, because the plaintiffs’ attorneys “clearly want to have this issue heard by the U.S. Supreme Court as soon as possible.”

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Florida Medical Association to Consider Resolutions Related to Abortion, Gender-Affirming Care

In the coming weeks, members of the Florida Medical Association (FMA) House of Delegates will be asked to vote on controversial resolutions related to issues that include abortion and gender-affirming care.

The FMA House of Delegates is the legislative and business body of the FMA. Its members are the officers of the FMA, the elected members of the Board of Governors, and the delegates officially elected by the component societies, specialty societies, Specialty Society Section, Young Physicians Section, Medical Student Section, Resident & Fellow Section and the FMA Alliance.

The FMA sets policy by acting on recommendations from the Board of Governors and resolutions presented by component county medical societies, recognized specialty medical societies, special sections and delegates.
According to documents reviewed by the Florida Capital Star, the FMA’s House of Delegates will address two resolutions addressing gender-affirming care for transgender people and two different abortion resolutions for the House of Delegates to consider.

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Florida Education Rule on Gender Identity Ignores Federal Guidance, Requires Parental Notification

The Florida Department of Education (FDOE) announced on July 25 that they intend to proceed with a proposed rule requiring school districts to adopt a policy that provides parental notification related to the logistic of overnight field trips.

The regulation is being implemented to align FDOE’s policies with Florida’s Parental Bill of Rights law passed in 2021.

Under the law, FDOE is required to review and update “school counseling frameworks and standards; educator practices and professional conduct principles and any other student services personnel guidelines” to align with the new law by June 30, 2023.

Two LGBTQ rights groups, Equality Florida and Family Equality, filed suit in federal court in March, arguing the Parental Bill of Rights law is unconstitutional. Attorney General Ashley Moody filed a motion asking U.S. District Judge Allen Winsor to throw out the case last month.

The new FDOE rule requires notification to parents, including details such as “the nature of the field trip, the dates and times, specific locations and types of establishments to be visited, modes of transportation and method of student supervision provided, such as anticipated number of chaperones.”

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Attorney General Ashley Moody Supports Regulation of Chinese Property Purchases in Florida

Attorney General Ashley Moody is the latest Florida official to raise concern over communist China buying land in Florida.

Moody, appearing on the Fox Business Network program Varney and Co., advocated for regulating foreign purchases of Florida land.

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Gwen Graham Resumes Twitter Attacks Aimed at Governor Ron DeSantis

After a hiatus from criticizing Florida Governor Ron DeSantis via her Twitter account, former gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham has resumed her personal attacks.

Graham, who currently serves as an Assistant Secretary of Education in the Biden Administration, called DeSantis a “cowardly bully” in a recent tweet aimed at the popular Florida governor.

On July 16, Graham tweeted, “For those of you who think Trump is worse than DeSantis, you are wrong. And for those who think DeSantis could take on Trump, also wrong. I know Ron. He is a cowardly, bully. He will turn and run when he can’t use his office as a stage to make himself look fake big. He is tiny.”

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Andrew Gillum Raids Campaign Funds to Pay $440K for Defense Lawyers

Andrew Gillum’s political action committee (PAC) from his failed bid for Florida governor recently paid his Miami lawyers $440,181, according to reports filed with the Division of Elections.

Gillum was indicted in June on multiple charges connected to campaign contribution fraud before and during his 2018 run for governor of Florida. The 21 count indictment includes conspiracy charges, wire fraud and making false statements.

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Nikki Fried Announces Support of a Reparations Bill in Florida If Elected Governor

During a campaign interview with hip-hop legend Luther Luke Campbell and others, Florida gubernatorial candidate Nikki Fried said, if she was elected governor, she would support reparations legislation like the bill recently adopted in California.

Stephen Johnson, 100 Black Men of South Florida Past Chair and member of the Miami-Dade Black Affairs Advisory Board, told Fried that he could not find her position on reoperations in any of her campaign materials. Johnson then asked if signing a reparations task force legislation be something she would do if she became governor of Florida. 

Fried responded, “Yes, of course it would be. I think this are hard conversations to have but we have to have them.”

Fried then went on to discuss the Groveland Four, who were four young African American men falsely accused of raping 17-year-old girl and assaulting her husband on July 16, 1949, in Lake County, Florida. Fried was a member of the Florida Cabinet who joined in issuing posthumous pardons of the four men on Jan. 11, 2019.

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Teachers’ Union Poll Shows Support for DeSantis’ Education Positions

A national teachers union poll shows that positions adopted by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis are supported by most voters.

During Florida’s 2022 legislative session, DeSantis championed a number of education related bills that his opponents often labeled as extreme. During the session, Equality Florida, a LGBTQ advocacy group, released a television advertisement “blasting” DeSantis over his positions.

However, a battleground-state survey commissioned by the American Teachers Federation shows a majority of voters approve of DeSantis’ education policy positions.

For example, one poll question found that voters, by a 32 percentage-point margin, said they were more likely to vote for candidates who believe public schools should focus less on teaching race and more on core subjects.

DeSantis signed a bill that banned critical race theory in schools.

Another poll question found that voters, by 27 points, said schools should be banned from teaching sexual orientation and gender identity to kids in kindergarten through third grade.

DeSantis signed the Parental Rights in Education bill (SB 1834), which expanded parental rights and limited the discussion of gender related issues in elementary school grades.

And by 28 points, another poll question found that voters agreed that transgender athletes should be banned from competing in girls’ sports.

In June 2021, DeSantis signed signed into law a policy banning transgender athletes from playing girls and women’s sports.

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Gov. DeSantis Speaks at Moms for Liberty Conference in Tampa

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis spoke for about an hour Friday during the opening day of the first-ever Moms for Liberty National Summit held in Tampa, which was scheduled to continue on Saturday and Sunday.

The summit welcomed “all moms, dads, grandparents, teachers, and friends concerned about the attack on parental rights in education and are ready to defend those rights at all levels of government.”

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Florida’s Capital City First to Approve Lobbying Ban for Convicted Felons

The Tallahassee City Commission voted on Wednesday unanimously to adopt a 10-year lobbying ban for anyone convicted of a felony related to bribery and honest services fraud. The ordinance will be drafted by the city attorney and brought back to the city commission at a later date.

According to information revealed at the meeting, Tallahassee will be the first major city in Florida to adopt a ban on lobbying by convicted felons.

Former Tallahassee City Commissioner Scott Maddox and two others were indicted and are currently serving prison sentences for their actions.

More recently, former Tallahassee mayor and one-time Florida gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum was indicted by the federal government.

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Florida Ports See Increase in Cargo, Cruise Lines Still Recovering

According to an industry report, cargo handled by Florida ports was up over 100% in 2021 when compared to 2020.

The Florida Ports Council released the 2021-2022 Seaport Mission Plan on Wednesday which provides detailed information related to Florida’s 15 seaports.

The report notes that, from a total tonnage perspective, year-over-year two-way, inbound and outbound cargo, rose 118.3% in 2021 compared to 2020.

Florida seaports are an important contributor to the state’s economy. Currently, Florida seaports generate nearly 900,000 direct and indirect jobs and contribute $117.6 billion in economic value to the state through cargo and cruise activities.

The report notes that, due to West Coast labor issues and lingering global supply-chain issues, “a re-alignment of global trade routes is clearly underway, and Florida ports are strategically positioned to take maximum advantage of this opportunity.”

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Gov. Ron DeSantis Issues Executive Order Designed to Lower Costs of Prescription Drugs

On Friday, Governor Ron DeSantis issued an Executive Order (22-164) focused on lowering the costs of prescription drugs for Floridians by promoting transparency. The order will ensure reforms are in place to hold Pharmacy Benefits Managers (PBMs) accountable when managing prescription drug benefits for insurance companies. PBMs are third-party administrators of prescription drug programs.

Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the executive order at a press conference at Cape Coral High School.

“This executive order is really probably the first time Florida as a state has taken action to ensure that we’re saving money for Floridians regarding the middlemen and what happens with the prescription drug programs,” DeSantis said. “I think it’s going to be very, very meaningful.”

“For far too long leaders have chosen the path of inaction, rather than action, and fallen victim to a pharmaceutical system driven by drug companies rather than consumers,” said Agency for Health Care Administration Secretary Simone Marstiller. “Fortunately, Governor DeSantis leads with principle, always putting Floridians first and today’s actions will further this commitment by providing insight into the FDA’s review process and all agency health care contracts through the end of the decade.”

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Governor DeSantis: Florida School Grades Better Than Expected

After a break from grades in the 2020-21 school year, a report from the Florida Department of Education (FDOE) shows 2021-22 Florida school grades are trending up.

A press release from Governor Ron DeSantis noted that “Florida’s schools performed much better than expected due to policies that kept schools open and kept students in the classroom.”

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Florida School Districts Continue to Face Teacher Shortages

The 2022-23 K-12 school year begins in less than two months and Florida school districts are facing teacher shortages.

As of this week, Duval County Public Schools reported 529 vacancies for certified teachers, up 23% — nearly 100 positions — compared to the start of last school year. This year’s vacancies are almost double the number Duval saw at the beginning of 2020-21 school year.

In addition, Orange County Public Schools lists over 200 K-12 teacher openings and Brevard County Public Schools lists 235 teacher vacancies.

And while the numbers are daunting they should not be surprising.

According to surveys by the Florida Education Association(FEA), the number of teacher vacancies have increased a 104% since August 2019. In August 2019, the FEA reported there were 2,135 advertised positions. This number increased to 2,962 in August 2020 and ballooned to 4,359 by January 2022.

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Nikki Fried’s Republican Donations Complicate Attacks on Charlie Crist

Less than two months out from the Democratic primary for Florida governor, Fried’s attacks on Charlie Crist for his time as a Republican has become complicated due to Fried’s own campaign donations to GOP candidates.

Crist, who served as a Republican governor in Florida from 2007 to 20011, changed parties and won the Democratic nomination for governor in 2014 and lost to then-Gov. Rick Scott. Crist now serves as a Democratic member of Congress.

Fried’s message to Democratic voters has attempted to take advantage of Crist’s past ties to Republican causes.

“They’re tired of recycled politicians especially people that haven’t delivered for Democrats ever,” Fried stated. She also said that Crist needs to be held “accountable” for his past “destructive” record assisting Republicans.

Specifically, Fried has highlighted Crist’s past positions on guns and abortion.

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Florida Rep. Anna Eskamani Endorses Divisive Independence Day Message

On Saturday, Florida House Rep. Anna Eskamani endorsed a divisive July 4th email message sent out by the City of Orlando. Eskamani’s approval of the message came after the City of Orlando apologized for the original message, which was critical of the United States.

The original email published on July 1 – which has since been deleted from Orlando’s official Twitter account – stated, “A lot of people probably do not want to celebrate our nation right now, and we can’t blame them. When there is so much division hate, and unrest, why on earth would you want to have a party celebrating any of it?”

Christina Pushaw, the spokesperson for Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, replied to the message. Pushaw tweeted,  “Yikes. City of Orlando, is this your official position on our country and on 4th of July?”

In addition, a local police union responded to the message.

‘The members of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 25 are proud Americans who will continue to serve with Courage, Pride and Commitment to uphold their oath to defend our community and this country. We do not share the same views as the City of Orlando and find their comments inflammatory and in poor taste,’ the statement from the police union read.

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Florida’s Revenue Collections 21 Percent over Projections, Consumer Confidence Rebounds

Florida’s Office of Economic and Demographic Research (EDR) reported that general revenue collections for May 2022 were $741.8 million (21.0 percent) over the estimates made in January 2022. In addition, consumer confidence among Floridians rebounded in June while national consumer sentiment fell sharply.

Revenues generated from the sales of automobiles was the highest above the projections among the six sales tax categories coming in $148.75 million (31.1 percent) over the May estimate.

Also contributing to the higher than projected sales tax revenue were the Tourism and Business categories, both surpassing estimates by over 26%.

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Florida Asks Judge to Dismiss Lawsuit Filed Against Parental Rights Bill

Attorney General Ashley Moody’s office filed a 60-page motion Monday arguing that U.S. District Judge Allen Winsor should dismiss a case filed by LGBTQ-advocacy groups Equality Florida and Family Equality related to the Parental Rights in Education legislation. 

The law (HB 1557) prevents instruction on gender identity and sexual orientation in kindergarten through third grade and requires that such instruction be “age-appropriate … in accordance with state academic standards” in older grades.

Attorney General Ashley Moody’s office called the provisions of the bill a “modest limitation … neutrally allowing all parents, no matter their views, to introduce those sensitive topics to their children as they see fit.” 

Monday’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit raised a series of arguments, including that the plaintiffs did not have legal standing and that the state has the right to set curriculums for public schools. It also took issue with the “Don’t Say Gay” moniker.

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Americans for Prosperity Gives 31 Florida Legislators an A-Plus

Americans for Prosperity-Florida (AFP-FL)  unveiled its 2022 Florida Legislative Scorecard Wednesday highlighting Florida’s elected officials who, according to AFP-FL, “championed solutions that will create more opportunity for all Floridians while standing up against harmful public policy change.”

AFP-FL stated that the scorecard “lets you know which lawmakers have championed policies that empower all Floridians to realize their potential, help others, and achieve their version of the American dream. It’s a tool for activists, the media, and the general public to learn how each senator and representative has voted and hold them to account for their decisions.”

According to the scorecard, 31 lawmakers scored an A+, 72 received an A, 35 received a B, 17 received a C, 3 received a D, and 2 lawmakers –Rep. Jervonte Edmonds and Sen. Perry Thurston— received an F.

The Florida lawmakers to receive an A+ in 2022 are all Republicans.

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Citing Crime, Chicago’s Richest Man to Move $22 Billion Company to Florida

Ken Griffin, Chicago’s richest man and founder of the hedge-fund Citadel, recently announced in a letter to employees that his company would be relocating to Miami.

“I am excited to share with you that Citadel is moving its global headquarters to Miami,” the letter read. “Miami is a vibrant, growing metropolis that embodies the American Dream. I am excited to have recently moved to Miami with my family and look forward to rapidly expanding Citadel in a city so rich in diversity and abounding with energy.”

Griffin’s decision comes less than a year after he told an audience at the Economic Club of Chicago that he was considering moving the business because of crime in the city.

A report indicated that over the past five years, using per capita information, that Chicago far outpaced Miami in homicides, sexual assaults, and robberies, while Miami outpaced Chicago in aggravated battery.

Griffin, 53, is originally from Daytona Beach, and went to high school in Boca Raton, but founded Citadel in Chicago 30 years ago. Griffin has been a frequent critic of rising crime in Chicago, and that appears to be a factor in the decision to move Citadel to Miami.

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Former Florida Gubernatorial Candidate Andrew Gillum Indicted by Feds

Former Tallahassee Mayor and Florida gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum has been indicted on multiple charges connected to campaign contribution fraud before and during his 2018 run for governor of Florida. Gillum lost to Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Florida unsealed the 21-count indictment on Wednesday. One of Gillum’s closest advisers, Sharon Lettman-Hicks, also was charged in the 21-count indictment. Gillum, 42, and Lettman-Hicks, 53, were arrested on Wednesday and were scheduled to have their first appearance Wednesday afternoon at the U.S. Courthouse in Tallahassee.

The 26-page indictment indicates that the Gillum investigation was part of the comprehensive corruption probe that used undercover agents to get close to some of Tallahassee’s biggest movers and shakers. Former Tallahassee Mayor and City Commissioner Scott Maddox and his associate Paige Carter-Smith, along with Tallahassee businessman J.T. Burnette were recently sentenced to prison as a result of the probe.

The indictment alleges that between 2016 and 2019, defendants Gillum and Lettman-Hicks conspired to commit wire fraud, by unlawfully soliciting and obtaining funds from various entities and individuals through false and fraudulent promises and representations that the funds would be used for a legitimate purpose.

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DeSantis Responds to Furor over COVID Shots for Children: ‘The White House Is Lying’

The DeSantis Administration is pushing back on comments by the White House press secretary and media reports that claim Florida has reversed course related to COVID shots for children. Florida made news as the only state not to pre-order the COVID vaccine for children six months to five years of age.

The Food & Drug Administration (FDA) authorized the vaccines for emergency use on June 17 for children as young as 6 months and the CDC recommended everyone ages 6 months and older get vaccinated against COVID-19.

Jeremy Redfern, press secretary for the Florida Department of Health, said the department “chose not to participate” in the vaccination program because the state health department is not following federal public health recommendations.

Governor Ron DeSantis also commented on the situation.

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Senator Marco Rubio Scores Another Law Enforcement Endorsement

This past Friday, U.S. Senator Marco Rubio announced he had received the endorsement of the Florida Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) in his U.S. Senate contest against probable opponent, Democratic Rep. Val Demings, a former law enforcement official.

The endorsement comes amid a statewide TV commercial campaign by Demings that seeks to highlight her law enforcement background – which includes 27 years as an Orlando police officer, including  four years as the Orlando Chief of Police – and to defuse attempts to tie her to the 2020 “defund the police” messages pushed by some liberal Democrats.

“In the Senate, I’ll protect Florida from bad ideas,” Demings says in the new 30-second TV spot. “Defunding the police: That’s just crazy.”

However, Rubio has been critical of Demings’ vote on legislation that includes provisions that would strip police of qualified immunity. Qualified immunity protects law enforcement officers against lawsuits over what they do on the job.

A Rubio campaign video shows law enforcement officers expressing outrage over Demings’ vote.

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DeSantis Keeps Promise, Launches Education Agenda for School Board Candidates

On Thursday, Gov. Ron DeSantis launched an education agenda focused on influencing local school board races in the 2022 election cycle.

Titled “The DeSantis Education Agenda: Putting Parents First, Protecting Parents’ Rights,”, the policy focuses on issues related to student success, parental rights and curriculum transparency.”

According to the website, “The DeSantis Education Agenda is a student-first, parent-centered initiative focused on setting Florida’s children up for success, ensuring parental rights in education, and combatting the woke agenda from infiltrating public schools….This statewide agenda is for school board candidates and school board members who are committed to advancing these priorities at the local school board level.”

In a statement provided to The Federalist, DeSantis championed the launch of the agenda, saying that “Florida has delivered the most student-focused, parent-centered education agenda in the nation” at a time when “curriculum in states around the country are being used as opportunities to indoctrinate innocent children.”

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Florida School Districts Scramble to Implement Provisions of the Parental Rights in Education Legislation

The recently passed Parental Rights in Education bill has Florida school districts scrambling to change policies and remove books that might violate the provisions of the legislation.

Notably, the Palm Beach Post reported that Palm Beach County school officials are ending the use of the “Genderbread Person” infographic. The infographic was used to explain the differences between anatomical sex, gender expression, gender identity, sexual attraction and romantic attraction.

Palm Beach Schools Superintendent Mike Burke said the infographic was “problematic because it gave the impression that we were targeting a younger audience” ……I’m not sure it was the most valuable piece of our curriculum.”

Part of the process in Palm Beach included sending questionnaires to teachers seeking information about materials used in classroom activities. If the questionnaire revealed potential violations, teachers were asked to send the material to school officials for review.

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DeSantis: ‘Blockade’ of Supreme Court by Pro-Choice Protesters Is an ‘Insurrection’

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis appeared on Fox & Friends Monday morning and labeled the potential  “blockade” of the Supreme Court by pro-choice groups as an “insurrection.”

DeSantis was referring to the publicized plans of  ShutDownDC,  a left-wing group which announced it was hosting a “shut down SCOTUS” protest on June 13, with plans to “blockade” the streets surrounding the Supreme Court in light of a potential decision that could overturn Roe v. Wade.

The group announced the protest plans on their website. “On June 13, one of the Supreme Court’s 2022 decision days, we plan to blockade the streets around the Supreme Court to rise up for the transformative change that our communities need,” the website states. “Right now our political system is in crisis. Times of crisis can either be opportunities to break through the inertia and win transformational change or they can be opportunities for the establishment to further entrench the status quo.”

DeSantis said on Fox & Friends that group is “trying to change the outcome of decisions that they are concerned that they don’t like and that is totally antithetical to the rule of law…That would be considered an insurrection: to stop a court from functioning, and yet they seem to be able to get away with a lot more than if the shoe were on the other foot.”

“I think that we have a rule of law in this country and you don’t just get to have a mob descend on a Supreme Court Justice’s house or try to impede the operations of government because there may be a decision you don’t like,” DeSantis added.

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Environmentalists Applaud DeSantis Veto of Everglades Related Bill

Supported by environmentalists, Governor Ron DeSantis (R-FL) vetoed a controversial measure (SB2508) tied to Everglades restoration last week. In the veto letter, DeSantis noted the possibility that the legislation could have a negative impact on Everglades restoration projects.

“While the bill that was ultimately passed by the Legislature is an improvement over what was initially filed, SB 2508 still creates unnecessary and redundant regulatory hurdles which may compromise the timely execution and implementation of Everglades restoration projects, water control plans and regulation schedules,” DeSantis wrote in the letter submitted to Secretary of State Cord Byrd.

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Governor DeSantis Responds to ‘Leftist’ Call for Special Session on Gun Laws

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis made it clear that he does not support the call for a special session on gun laws as proposed by several legislators.

Last week State Rep. Joseph Geller, D-Miami-Dade, sent a letter to all state lawmakers and the Florida secretary of state in an attempt to have a special session called to address gun violence.

In order for a special session to be granted, 60% of the lawmakers in the house and senate would have to approve the request. The governor could also issue a proclamation calling for the special session.

On Wednesday, DeSantis responded to the request by noting that Florida has adopted a number laws to  address gun violence.

DeSantis said, “What we’ve done in this budget is have record funding, continued record funding for school safety and school security as well as mental health. We’ve done three-quarters of a billion dollars just for school security, just since 2019, so we took the Stoneman Douglas recommendations, we put those into effect in both policy and with resources and it’s made a really, really big difference.”

DeSantis then took a shot at the “leftist.”

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DeSantis Explains His Response to Disney’s ‘Ridiculous Course of Action’ Related to the Parental Rights in Education Bill

During a recent interview with David Rubin, Gov. DeSantis explained his actions related to Disney and their position on the Parental Rights in Education bill.

DeSantis told Rubin that early in the 2022 Florida legislative session he became aware that activists would be pushing a false narrative about the Parental Rights in Education legislation around the “Don’t Say Gay” slogan.

DeSantis said, “I started fighting back against them because they were just lying to people and it’s offensive when they’re lying and so we start fighting back and I would literally have these reporters, I’d say ‘okay where does it say that in the bill?’ okay it doesn’t say that in the bill what does it say?”

DeSantis then discussed Disney’s decision to get involved with opposing the legislation.

DeSantis said, “Then you had this situation where you had the corporations, mostly Disney, deciding to get involved and I think people look at that they’re like first of all I don’t know why they got involved in this, it was a huge mistake for them …. I think they’ve lost 60 billion in market cap since they got involved.”

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LGBTQ+ Pride Night Backfires on Tampa Bay Rays

The Tampa Bay Rays’ LGBTQ Pride Night recently made headlines due to players choosing not to participate in the event. The promotional event featured rainbow-colored logos added to the teams’ jerseys and caps. In addition, the Rays organization included members of the LGBTQ+ community in pregame events, gave out mini pride flags and offered special ticket packages.

“Our Pride Nights continue to grow both in terms of visibility and participation,” Rays president Matt Silverman said. “By doing this, we extend an invitation not just for this game but for all of our games that the LGBTQ+ community is invited, welcomed and celebrated.”

However, players were given the option to opt out and five decided not to participate by removing the logo and wearing a standard hat. Those who did not participate included pitchers Jason Adam, Jalen Beeks, Brooks Raley, Jeffrey Springs and Ryan Thompson.

Adam appeared to be the spokesperson for the group who provided a statement to the Tampa Bay Times after the game.

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Progressive Leader, State Rep. Anna Eskamani, Endorses U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist for Florida Governor

An influential progressive politician in Florida, State Rep. Anna Eskamani, has endorsed U.S. Rep Charlie Crist in his bid  for the Democratic nomination for Florida governor. Crist is in a campaign for the nomination with Florida’s current Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried and Florida State Senator Annette Taddeo.

“At Team Anna, we’re ‘working for you, and fighting for us’ — and that’s exactly who Charlie Crist is and what he does,” said Eskamani.

Eskamani, who represents House District 47 which includes part of Orlando, also noted that Crist “has gone toe-to-toe w/some of the most powerful companies in FL & joined us in opposing the anti-rooftop solar bill this past legislative session too. He’s committed to criminal legal reform, abortion access, LGBTQ+ rights, public ed, the environment & more!”

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Florida Supreme Court to Hear Arguments Related to Local Government Gun Regulations

The Florida Supreme Court will hear arguments next week in a dispute over a 2011 state law that allows for penalties if city and county officials pass gun regulations. The hearing comes amid a ramped up debate over gun laws due to recent mass shootings in Texas and New York.

The case made it to the Supreme Court when a coalition of local governments and Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried filed notices back in June 2021. The notices were the initial steps in asking the Supreme Court to hear the case and came a month after the 1st District Court of Appeal denied a request to send the case to the Supreme Court.

The efforts to get a Supreme Court hearing came after a Tallahassee-based appeals court upheld the constitutionality of the 2011 law in April, 2021

Since 1987, Florida has barred cities and counties from passing regulations that are stricter than state firearms laws, and the penalties in the 2011 law were designed to strengthen that “preemption.”

The law was challenged by local governments and officials who were urged to take action after the February 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland that killed 17 people. However, attorneys for the local governments indicated in  a 2019 court document that the requested actions were not taken up by elected officials due to the potential penalties outlined in the 2011 state law.

The requested actions included such things as requiring procedures or documentation to ensure compliance with background checks and waiting periods for gun purchases and requiring reporting of failed background checks.

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Two Arrested in Florida for Threatening to Conduct a Mass Shooting at a School

In the wake of the mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas, two people have been arrested in Florida in separate incidents related to mass shooting threats.

In Tampa, officials arrested an 18-year-old Florida man after receiving a tip that he threatened a mass shooting at a school in a social media post. Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister said in a press release that Corey Anderson’s social media showed him with a handgun, a rifle and a tactical-style vest along with a caption that said, “Hey Siri, directions to the nearest school.”

Anderson was arrested on Sunday, May 29th, and charged with a written or electronic threat to conduct a mass shooting or act of terrorism.

“This type of threat is unacceptable. This man intentionally instilled fear into our community as a sick joke, but be warned, this is no laughing matter,” Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister said in a statement on Facebook.

In a similar incident, a 10-year-old Florida fifth grade student has been arrested in Lee County after making a school threat. Investigators learned of the threats made by the boy on Saturday and arrested him, said Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marceno.

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Florida Senator Rick Scott Offers Support for Federal Red Flag Law

Amid a debate by elected leaders on how to respond to the mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas, Florida Senator Rick Scott (R-Fla.) has indicated he would support a federal “red flag” law.

Axios reported that Scott said he was “OK with supporting a federal red flag law but added that generally such laws should be up to the states.”

Scott supported “red flag” legislation in Florida in the wake of the Parkland shooting which resulted in the death of 17 students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School when he signed the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act into law in 2018.

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Florida Democrat Anna Eskamani Blames ‘Pro-Life Politicians’ for Texas School Shooting

Florida Democrat House member Anna Eskamani was quick to politicize the mass shooting that took place at Robb Elementary school in Uvalde, Texas on Tuesday where reports indicate that 19 students and two teachers were killed in the shooting.

Eskamani tweeted out at 4:34 p.m. on Tuesday, “All these ‘pro-life’ politicians don’t seem to give a damn about our kids being shot in their own schools.”

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Florida Gas Prices Hit New Record

According to AAA-The Auto Club Group, the Florida average price for gasoline reached a new record high of $4.49 per gallon on Sunday.

The latest price beats the previous record of $4.38 per gallon set back in March soon after Russia invaded Ukraine. Before this year, the record high was $4.08 per gallon, which was set back in 2008.

Florida’s average price jumped about 30 cents in the past week. The state average is now $1.60 per gallon more than a year ago. It now costs $67 for a full 15-gallon tank of gas. That’s $24 more than what drivers paid this time last year.

Based on the gasolinemiserindex.com website, Florida consumers are paying $889 more annually on gasoline when compared to spending last year. The is approximately 21% higher than the $735 the average American family is spending this year.

“Drivers are dealing with unprecedented pain at the pump and things could soon get worse before they get better,” said Mark Jenkins, spokesman, AAA – The Auto Club Group. “We saw more big gains in the gasoline futures market late last week, which could trickle down to yet another 10-20 cent jump at the pump in the near future.”

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Florida Tourism Numbers Break Record in First Quarter

An analysis by Visit Florida, the state’s tourism-marketing agency, showed that Florida attracted a record number of tourists during the first three months of 2022. The numbers, which were released this past Friday, surpassed totals reported for similar time periods before the COVID-19 pandemic negatively impacted the hospitality and leisure industry.

The analysis estimates that 35.982 million people traveled to Florida between the start of January and the end of March. Florida has now recorded four consecutive quarters attracting more than 30 million visitors.

“Our Q1 visitation estimates show that 2022 is shaping up to be another amazing year for Florida tourism,” said Dana Young, VISIT FLORIDA President and CEO. “In addition to breaking more pre-pandemic records domestically, we are seeing an exponential rebound in Orlando as well as our international numbers, which we expect to continue in the months ahead.

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Florida State Rep. Jason Shoaf Calls for Removal of Middle School Principal

Florida state Representative Jason Shoaf is calling for the removal of a Leon County middle school principal after the principal posted on Facebook that parents are “getting in our way.” Shoaf’s call for action is in response to a media report about comments in a Facebook post by Sarah Hembree, the principal of Elizabeth Cobb middle school, is located in Leon County.

On Tuesday, Tallahassee Reports published a story about the Facebook post by Hembree which stated in part, “Today I say – Parents, Quit pushing for stupid bills and getting in our way…schools are going to do what’s best for your students in spite of you..”

The “Quit pushing for stupid bills” statement appears to be a reference to the Parental Rights in Education bill that was recently signed into law by Governor DeSantis.

Hembree added that teachers “want to decide what they teach in their classroom based on the needs of the students in front of them….I am SO TIRED of being told we don’t know what we are doing or that we are messing with parents’ rights.”

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Nikki Fried Campaign Consultant Acknowledges Overwhelming Republican Electoral Advantage, Says Fried Is the Answer

Kevin Cate, the campaign consultant for Florida gubernatorial candidate Nikki Fried, recently noted the Republican electoral advantage facing Democrats running for statewide office. Cate previously worked on the 2014 Charlie Crist campaign and the 2018 Andrew Gillum campaign for Florida governor.

In a series of tweets, Cate provided his “perspective on the Florida Democratic primary for Governor and the general election environment.”

Cate tweeted, ” I cannot stress enough how tough of an environment the general will be.”

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Florida Surgeon General Criticizes Federal Directives Related to Treatment for Gender Dysphoria

The Florida Department of Health (FDOH) provided guidance Wednesday on treating gender dysphoria for children and adolescents in response to information recently provided by the federal government.

The FDOH press release noted that “gender dysphoria is characterized by a strong, persistent cross-gender identification associated with anxiety, depression, irritability, and often a wish to live as a gender different from the one associated with the sex assigned at birth.”

Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo issued a statement criticizing the federal directives.

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Florida School Superintendent Uses Misleading CNN Fact-Check to Discredit Parental Rights Bill

At a recent Leon County School Board meeting, Superintendent Rocky Hanna used a misleading CNN fact-check to publicly criticize Governor DeSantis’ rationale for the Parental Rights in Education bill, while ignoring facts related to a lawsuit filed against the school district.

The CNN fact-check uses selective comments from a DeSantis press conference, related to an incident which took place at a Leon County middle school, to question the rationale for the Parental Rights in Education bill.

The incident involved the failure of school officials to notify parents about a meeting with their daughter concerning gender issues. The parents have filed a federal lawsuit against the Leon County School Board.

Hanna, reading DeSantis’s comments from the CNN fact-check, said that “none of this happened, none of this is true, it is all fabricated…”

While DeSantis’s comments about the specifics of the incident were partly inaccurate, Hanna ignored facts that were consistent with the comments made by DeSantis.

What Hanna did not reveal in his comments to the school board is that school officials initiated an interview with the student as part of a  “Transgender/Gender Nonconforming Student Support Plan” without including the parents.

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Leon County Elementary School Teacher Criticizes Parents, Expresses Gender Identity Views

Brandy Vance, a Leon County school teacher at J. Michael Conley Elementary School at Southwood, is not happy about the Parental Rights in Education bill and she recently took to Facebook to voice her concerns.

The Parental Rights in Education bill, which was recently signed into law, contains a provision that “prohibits a school district from encouraging classroom discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity in primary grade levels or in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students.”

Vance posted a 220 word explanation of her position related to issue with a picture of herself dressed in LGBTQ supportive attire on Conley Elementary school grounds.

The post included below, appears to have been removed from Facebook.

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Dungy Responds to Criticism After Supporting DeSantis Fatherhood Initiative

Former NFL coach Tony Dungy responded Tuesday to critics who called him a “fraud” and a “racist apologist” after he attended a press conference where Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed a new bill directing millions of dollars toward a fatherhood initiative.

Dungy works with the nonprofit group All Pro Dad, which provides parenting information and hosts events.

At the DeSantis press conference Dungy said, “I asked [Abe Brown], how do those young boys (19, 20, 21) get [in prison]? And he told me it’s not socio-economic, it’s not racial, it’s not education, it’s none of that. 95% of these boys did not grow up with their dad.”

Dungy also cited statistics related to fatherless children and said, “This is going to be tremendous and such a good help to fathers in Florida. This bill is so important. I want to thank all of the men and women that have been behind this. It is going to allow groups like All Pro Dad and people like those here today to do great things for our fathers here in Florida.”

Critics pounced.

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Comparative Analysis Grades Florida COVID Performance an ‘A’

A study comparing Covid outcomes in the 50 states and the District of Columbia based on the economy, education and mortality gave nine states – including Florida – an A for their efforts.

The study was published last week by the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER). The authors of the study are University of Chicago economist Casey Mulligan and Stephen Moore and Phil Kerpen of the Committee to Unleash Prosperity.

For economic performance the study used two measures: unemployment and GDP by state. Education performance was measured by the cumulative in-person instruction percentage for the complete 2020-2021 school year, with hybrid instruction weighted half. For mortality, the two measures were  COVID-associated deaths reported to the CDC and all-cause excess mortality.

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A Misleading CNN Fact-Check Is Used by Florida Statewide Media Against Gov. DeSantis

A misleading CNN fact check related to the Parental Rights in Education bill is being used by some in the Florida statewide media to promote incomplete information related to Governor DeSantis rationale for the legislation.

The fact check – which was published last week – notes that “On several occasions since signing the bill into law, DeSantis has highlighted the story of a woman named January Littlejohn, a registered Republican, who says she was not fully consulted about the school’s gender-affirming plan for her child.”

CNN uses the fact that Ms. Littleljohn initially told school officials – in an email-  “that she would not stop her child from using preferred pronouns or name of choice at school” as inconsistent with the DeSantis statement that the school did not get the mother’s consent to address the her daughter’s gender identity issues.

However, what the CNN analysis does not include is the fact that Leon County school officials went beyond Ms. Littlejohn’s initial consent-  related to pronouns and name choice – and initiated an interview with their child as part of a  “Transgender/Gender Nonconforming Student Support Plan.”

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Florida Rated One of the Most Dangerous States for Pedestrians

Statistics provided by the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV) show that the number of traffic crash and pedestrian fatalities have increased significantly  in 2021 when compared to 2020 and 2019. The alarming increases are consistent with national trends.

In 2021, FLHSMV reported 3,405 crash related fatalities which is 9.0% above the 3,098 reported in 2020. FLHSMV reported a 5.0% increase in 2020 and 1.2% increase in 2019.

Col. Justin Ferrara, with the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office located in central Florida, said that “high-stress levels and frustration led to aggressive and unsafe driving.” “Enforcement, education, traffic-calming techniques and common sense are all areas of concentration,” Ferrara said.

Federal data from the department’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) indicate traffic deaths began to increase  in 2019. NHTSA has blamed reckless driving behavior for increases during the pandemic, citing behavioral research showing that speeding and traveling without a seat belt have been higher. Before 2019, the number of fatalities had fallen for three straight years.

Ironically, while the rate of fatalities have increased in Florida, the number of crashes since 2018 has actually declined. Again, this is consistent with national trends. The latest NHTSA crash data shows that crashes have become more deadly.

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Florida Agency Plans for ‘Transportation Equity’

Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) documents show that the agency has adopted policies that will give consideration to “transportation equity.” 

On January 25, 2021, President Joe Biden signed Executive Order 13985, officially titled Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government. It directs the federal government to revise agency policies to account for racial inequities in their implementation. As a result of this Order, on May 25, 2021, the U.S. Department of Transportation published a Request for Information (RFI) on Transportation Equity Data.

These actions by the federal government – occurring just over a year ago –  have already impacted transportation planning in Florida.

For example, a policy brief distributed by the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) Office of Policy Planning – titled “Equity Subject Brief” – describes strategies to improve transportation equity. The document notes that the  “state’s long range transportation plan – the Florida Transportation Plan (FTP) – establishes the goal of Transportation Choices that Improve Equity and Accessibility.”

This policy message has reached the district staff level.

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DeSantis Threatens Disney’s Special Governing District

Ron DeSantis

The latest escalation in the feud between Governor DeSantis and the Walt Disney Company over the Parental Rights in Education bill involves the possibility of repealing a law that gives Disney special governing privileges.

The  Reedy Creek Improvement District (RCID) was formed in 1967 to serve the interests of Disney by a special Act of the Florida Legislature and subsequently validated by the Florida Supreme Court.

The arrangements allow Disney to shape the park environment without government oversight.

Richard Foglesong, a Rollins College professor, told the Washington Post that “It’s legal magic. The Reedy Creek government can regulate land use, provide police and fire services, license the manufacture and sale of alcoholic beverages, build roads, lay sewer lines, construct waste-treatment plants, carry out flood projects–even build an airport or nuclear plant, all without local or state approval.”

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DeSantis Blames Biden Administration’s Immigration Policy for Daytona Murders

In a press release on Wednesday, Governor DeSantis blamed the Biden Administration’s “dangerous immigration policies” for the recent murder of Terry and Brenda Aultman in Daytona Beach. 

The press release referenced the arrest on March 10, 2022 of Jean R. Macean, a citizen of Haiti and an illegal immigrant, who was charged with two counts of first-degree murder.

Investigators say the Aultmans were riding their bikes home from Bike Week earlier this month when Macean picked them at random and stabbed them to death. Daytona Beach Police Chief Jakari Young described these killings as “one of the most vicious attacks I’ve ever seen in my 20 years.”

According to the release, the “Aultmans suffered at the hands of an illegal immigrant due to open border policies that are failing our citizens. The Biden Administration announced a new Temporary Protected Status designation for Haiti last year, a reversal of the policy of the previous administration. The policy allowed Macean to stay in the country.”

DeSantis also implicated State Attorney Aramis Ayala. 

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